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ACMA Survey Notes Telco Progress On Consumer Protections

The latest credit assessments mystery shopping study by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that telcos are making good progress in implementing strengthened consumer protection measures.

This study was a follow-up on the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman February 2019 report, which found that telco sales practices often drive consumer debt.

The ‘Sales Practices Driving Consumer Debt’ report recommended that in-store sales staff be retrained to ensure that customers are not financially over-committed, as this is a problem that can cause significant consumer detriment.

ACMA’s mystery shopper survey found that while six of the 37 survey participants were not asked anything about their capacity to pay for the telco product at the point of sale, 31 of the participants were.

It is worth noting that in-store is the area that needs the most improvement. Over the phone and online, 100% of shoppers were asked at least one question about their ability to pay, compared to 78% of those who shopped in-store.

Source: ACMA

“Phone and internet services are especially important for vulnerable people who additionally need their telco for the social services that assist their day-to-day living. Credit checking and assessing a consumer’s ability to pay for products and services can contribute to stopping the cycle of debt that arises from not being able to pay for what they’ve signed up to,” said Ombudsman Judi Jones.

“The result of this study demonstrates Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have taken positive steps to ensure appropriate credit checking is completed during online and telephone sales. I encourage all telcos to ensure that before agreeing to sell a post-paid plan, they make reasonable enquiries about a customer’s financial situation and assess the customer’s ability to meet minimum charges over the plan’s contractual term.”

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